[Rd] Bounty on Error Checking

Ben Bolker bbolker at gmail.com
Thu Jan 3 23:52:44 CET 2013

ivo welch <ivo.welch <at> anderson.ucla.edu> writes:

> Dear R developers---I just spent half a day debugging an R program,
> which had two bugs---I selected the wrongly named variable, which
> turns out to have been a scalar, which then happily multiplied as if
> it was a matrix; and another wrongly named variable from a data frame,
> that triggered no error when used as a[["name"]] or a$name .  there
> should be an option to turn on that throws an error inside R when one
> does this.  I cannot imagine that there is much code that wants to
> reference non-existing columns in data frames.
> I know you guys are saints for developing without financial support.
> but maybe we non-insider end-users can help by putting up a bounty
> list on R-project for us end-users to contribute to?  I would pledge
> $500 to a $10,000 fund that funds a project to comprehensively enhance
> the programming and debugging aspects of R.  it would only take 20 of
> us to make this possible.
> personally, I think basic nudgeware is the way to go.  when a user
> starts R in interactive mode, there should be a note that says,
>  please donate $20 to the R foundation to support the development.
> press enter to continue or enter your contribution number to avoid
> this message in the future .
> you can even accept the same string if need be.  it's a nudge only,
> not a requirement.

   I did bring this idea up briefly 5 years ago (for whatever that's
worth)L http://tolstoy.newcastle.edu.au/R/e2/devel/07/05/3202.html.  
I very much doubt R-core will go for this, but there's nothing stopping
some private citizen with time and energy on their hands from setting
up their own private bounty system.  As I see it the challenges would

* setting up and administering the web site and the bounty system
(i.e. figuring out rules for deciding when a bounty should be paid)
* convincing the R community that their money is safe with you;
* figuring out an appropriate payment/escrow system (Paypal?)
* dealing with any tax and reporting issues relevant to your locality of
receiving and disbursing money

It's conceivable that some existing R-oriented entity (Mango Solutions,
Revolution, RStudio?) would want/be willing to partner.

  This won't take care of getting stuff into core R, but (1) 
well-worked out proofs of concept would go a long way to convincing
R-core; (2) a lot can be done outside of core R if (for
example) you moved over to using data.table everywhere instead of
data frames (only translating to data frames where absolutely necessary).

(I would love a scalar data type for R, but I don't think that
can be done without a near-complete rewrite ...)

  Ben Bolker

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